Famous around the world, Kathakali's magnificence has won great admiration for the state. We are proud that this renowned art form originated on our shores over 300 years ago. It combines devotion, drama, dance, music, costumes and make up into a divine experience for all who get to view it. It retells the great stories of the past, mostly from Indian epics, and leaves one spellbound at the various intricacies involved in the performance. Every single quiver of the lips, flicker of the eyes or a movement involving the fingers twirling, has great significance. The entire performance sees the audience unable to take their eyes away from the spectacle taking place on stage.
The costume is elaborate and the face is painted in vivid hues. The Vesham or make-up is of five types - Pacha, Kathi, Thadi, Kari and Minukku.
The pomp and magnificence of Kathakali is partly due to its décor, part of which is the kireetam (huge ornamental headgear) and the kanchukam (oversized jackets), and a long skirt worn over a thick padding of cushions. The artists completely immerse themselves and the audience into the story they're describing.
Pacha Vesham or the green make-up portrays noble protagonists.
Kathi Vesham portrays villainous characters.
There are three types of beards or Thadi Veshams. Vella Thadi or White beard for superhuman monkeys like Hanuman. Chuvanna Thadi or Red beard meant for evil characters. Karutha Thadi or Black beard for the hunter.
Kari Vesham is used for she-demons.
Minukku (Prettying Up)
The "Minukku Vesham" is used for female characters and sages.
Mudra is a stylised sign language used to depict an idea, a situation or a state of being. A Kathakali actor enacts his ideas through mudras. For this, the actor follows a systematic sign language based on Hastalakshana Deepika, a treatise on the language of hand gestures.
Kathakali orchestra is formed of two varieties of drums - the maddalam and chenda; the chengila which is a bell metal gong and the ilathalam or cymbals.
Students of Kathakali have to undergo rigorous training replete with oil massages and separate exercises for eyes, lips, cheeks, mouth and neck. Abhinaya or expression is of prime importance as is nritya or dance and geetham or singing.
Kathakali said to have evolved from other artforms like Kutiyattam, Krishnanattam and Kalaripayattu. Kerala Kalamandalam Kerala Kalamandalam is among the foremost centres for Kathakali training in the traditional way.